Edible Paradise: How to grow herbs, flowers, and vegetables in any space

Rachael Mairey | Wednesday, 24th April 2019
A bible for both seasoned gardeners and those at the beginning of their journey. Vera is seriously knowledgeable, imparting her permaculture design, scientific, herbal and culinary wisdom throughout. A must-read for all those who wish to savour a slice of paradise!
Author: Vera Greutink
Publisher: Permanent Publications
Publication year: 2019
RRP: £16.00

What an inspirational book! This really is a bible for both seasoned gardeners and those at the beginning of their journey. Vera wastes no time: as soon as you open the book, you are gifted with ideas and food for thought, making you unable to stop reading!

Vera beautifully embeds permaculture into kitchen gardening, with authority, logic, wisdom, experience, personal stories, and above all, passion. The result: infallible systems and creative, resourceful ideas which cannot fail to strike a chord with any gardener.

She includes planting plans and offers suggestions and guidance. However, she also invites the reader to tweak and adapt if desired. She therefore manages to appeal to all gardeners, regardless of experience. This is a real art, skilfully mastered.

Vera embraces every stage of the growing sphere: the joy of mulching and sowing as well as the magic of harvesting and cooking your produce. This beautiful book is full of pictures from her garden and is peppered with her own personal recipes, leaving you raring to go (and somewhat peckish!). A wealth of knowledge, expertly crafted into a beautiful package of written and visual wisdom.

Vera opens with an ingenious, user-friendly section on container gardening, offering practical advice and suggestions. Container planting ideas and polyculture examples using thrillers, fillers and spillers are given, as are techniques to revitalise your potting compost.

The author successfully weaves practicality with aesthetics. For example, using pine cones or nut shells as a container mulch not only looks pretty, but also reduces evaporation, supresses weeds and deters slugs - true permaculture multifunctionality. She pays great attention to detail throughout, including describing how to position plants depending on the orientation of your balcony. She also suggests useful varieties for containers, and shares what has worked well for her and what hasn’t - both experiences as invaluable as each other.

Her wonderful outlook is reflected in her interpretation of the extra care required by a container garden: it gives an opportunity for mindfulness and connection with a little piece of nature amidst the hustle and bustle of urban life. 

She then moves on to The Permaculture Kitchen Garden in Part 2. This section will undoubtedly convince the most traditional of vegetable gardeners to give no dig a go or to experiment with the odd polyculture. This is thanks to her clear explanations of, and reasoning behind, such concepts, along with the wealth of experience she draws upon. Different practices and concepts are broken down eloquently and rationally. Vera gives us step by step guides and 10 reasons not to dig!

This section is crammed full of invaluable information and fantastic tips. She explores how and when to use different mulches, from cocoa shells to grass clippings to rhubarb leaves. Vera addresses successional thinning and how to achieve differing growth rates for staggered harvesting, as well as how to reduce the ‘unique’ odour of comfrey fertiliser! To enable us to overcome the pain of thinning out healthy young seedlings, Vera reminds us that each stage of a plant’s growth has its own charm and different possibilities for the kitchen! Thank you!

The fabulous chapter on seed saving covers the importance of letting certain plants go to seed, which plants to save from, how and why. She then describes her experiences in setting up different gardens, including a community garden as well as a potager!

Polycultures are comprehensively explained in nine steps. There are numerous plant recommendations and planting plans, and even Mexican and Oriental themed polyculture examples. Helpfully, plants are listed in order of sowing density.

This book even includes a section on cut flower gardening and concludes with a massively useful month by month account of the permaculture kitchen garden - the perfect finale to this incredible user-friendly work of art!

One is immersed in Vera’s paradise throughout the entire book. Her ability to weave the magic of her creations with the practicalities of how to achieve them, meant that I always had a pen and paper to hand! I couldn’t stop adding things into my growing plans and plant lists!

As a lover of all plants, wild, edible, perennial, annual and ornamental, I really appreciate the way in which she embraces them all. Vera invites the reader to experiment and explore new angles. Her honesty about what she does and, importantly, does not do is refreshing and reassuring. She shares solutions and ways to work around constraints in order to achieve a realistic and satisfactory compromise. She constantly strives for multifunctionality and beauty, resulting in beneficial relationships between the natural world, us and our gardens.

Vera is seriously knowledgeable, imparting her permaculture design, scientific, herbal and culinary wisdom throughout. A must-read for all those who wish to savour a slice of paradise!

Rachael Mairey is the volunteer coordinator at the Sustainability Centre in Hampshire, home to Permaculture Magazine for over 20 years.

Useful links

Watch: How to grow your own annual edible polyculture with Vera

The polyculture market garden study: year 4 results

The early polleniser polyculture - plant for bees